SAIRR Today: Good news in South African schooling - 21st May 2010

Recently the provincial education department in the Eastern Cape stated that it would be auditing former ‘Model C’ schools there because these schools had ‘too many luxuries’, and were refusing to comply with the provincial department’s policies. In a meeting at the provincial legislature in Bhisho in April, the portfolio chairman on education in the province, Mr Mzoleli Mrara, said that ‘Model C’ schools were ‘racist’ and used the country’s courts to win battles against the provincial education department. However, the 2009 matric results in former ‘Model C’ schools around South Africa indicates that their black pupils do very well.

The Institute has analysed results in schools formerly administered by the House of Assembly (HoA).   This was the whites-only chamber in the tricameral Parliament which South Africa experimented with between 1984 and 1994. Schools for coloured pupils were administered by the House of Representatives, and Indian schools by the House of Delegates. Schools for African pupils were controlled by either the Department of Education and Training or the various homeland administrations.

Former ‘Model C’ schools can trace their roots to the beginning of the 1990s. In 1990, the then-minister of education, Mr Piet Clasé, announced that from the beginning of 1991 parents with children in white government schools would be allowed to choose from three models how the schools would be run in future.

  Model A would result in the school’s becoming fully private. Model B would result in its remaining a state school, and being allowed to admit black pupils up to a maximum of 50% of the total pupil body. Model C would result in the school’s becoming semi-privatised. The school would receive a state subsidy but would have to raise the balance of its budget through fees and donations. It would also be able to admit black pupils up to a maximum of 50% of the student body. From the beginning of 1992, a fourth option was added, Model D. These schools would remain under the control of the white education department, but would be able to admit an unlimited number of black pupils.

In 1992 the Government announced that all schools under the control of the House of Assembly would become Model C schools, unless parents voted by a two-thirds majority for Model B schools. As a result, by April 1992, approximately 1900 former white schools had become Model C schools. This equated to 96% of all schools that were under the control of the House of Assembly.

An analysis of matriculation results broken down by race shows that pupils, especially African pupils, fare significantly better in former ‘Model C’ schools than in other government schools. According to the Department of Education there were 5 477 public secondary schools in South Africa in 2008 (the latest year for which figures are available). Of these, some 620 (11%) were former Model C schools. At the same time there were 180 independent secondary schools in the country.

In 2009 the proportion of African pupils who passed the matric examinations overall was 56%. However in former ‘Model C’ schools the proportion of African pupils who passed was 88%. In order to pass, a pupil must achieve at least 30% in three subjects, and 40% in a further three, one of which must be the pupil’s home language.

For coloured pupils the overall matric pass rate in 2009 was 76%, while for those attending former ‘Model C’ schools it was 99%. The overall proportion of Indian and Asian pupils who passed the matric exams was 92%. For those attending former ‘Model C’ schools it was 98%. For white pupils the overall proportion that passed was 98.5%, while for those attending former ‘Model C’ schools the pass rate was 98.4%. However, the vast majority of white pupils who wrote the 2009 matric exams would have attended former ‘Model C’ schools.

An analysis of provincial pass rates is instructive. In the Eastern Cape, where former ‘Model C’ schools were the subject of an attack by the provincial education department, the pass rate for African children in such schools was 95%. The overall pass rate for African pupils in that province in last year’s matric exams was 47%. This shows that in the Eastern Cape, an African pupil’s chances of passing matric are far better if he or she attends a former ‘Model C’ school.

In all other provinces, with the exception of the Northern Cape, pass rates were between 85% and 95% in former ‘Model C’ schools.

For other population groups the figures are similar. Of coloured pupils who wrote matric exams in former ‘Model C’ schools in 2009, pass rates of more than 90% were achieved in every province, with the exception of the Northern Cape. In that province the pass rate for coloured pupils was 68%. For coloured pupils as a whole, pass rates by province varied from 66% in the Northern Cape to 85% in KwaZulu-Natal. The pass rates in all other provinces varied between 70% and 79%.

  Indian pupils and white pupils all fared relatively well. The pass rate for Indian and Asian pupils in former ‘Model C’ schools was above 90% in all provinces , with the exception of the Northern Cape. However, in that province only 12 Indian or Asian pupils had written the matric exams. For white pupils the results in former ‘Model C’ schools mirrored almost exactly the overall results, as would be expected, since as noted above, the vast majority of white pupils would have attended former ‘Model C’ schools. The pass rate for white pupils, overall and in former ‘Model C’ schools was above 95% in all provinces.



African matric pass rate, 2009: Former ‘Model C’ schools

African matric pass rate, 2009: All schools

Eastern Cape



Free State















North West



Northern Cape



Western Cape




These results are not surprising. Former ‘Model C’ schools have facilities that are the envy of schools which did not fall under the control of the House of Assembly. Although there are many non-’Model C’ schools with dedicated and hard-working teaching staff, the results suggest that the teaching ethos in most former ‘Model C’ schools is still intact. Teachers are serious about their jobs, and dedicated to the children that they teach. The same cannot be said for many non-’Model C’ schools, where teachers often do not teach for the full day and are sometimes not in class at all. Reports of sexual abuse and harassment are rife. In August 2009 President Jacob Zuma said that were a number of schools where teaching occurred for fewer than 3.5 hours per day, rather than the required seven. The majority of schools where this occurs are likely to be non-’Model C’ schools.

The racial make-up of teachers or pupils at former ‘Model C’ schools does not affect the results. Former ‘Model C’ schools which have largely African teaching staff and pupils still perform well. For example, Brakpan High in Ekurhuleni (Gauteng) has an African staff complement exceeding 80%, and some 83% of the pupils who wrote matric there in 2009 were African. The school achieved a pass rate of 93%, far in excess of the provincial pass rate of 65%. The pass rate among Africans in the school was 92%.

There are other examples. Kingsridge High School in King Williams Town, formerly known by the politically incorrect name of Kaffrarian High School for Girls, attained a pass rate of 100%. Of its 87 pupils, some 60 were African, and only 10 were white. Port Shepstone High in KwaZulu-Natal achieved a pass rate of 100%. Some 148 (66%) of its student body of 224 were Africans. Dawnview High, also in Ekurhuleni, had a pass rate of 94%. Some 105 (67%) of its student body were Africans.

The decay and neglect of the African education system is probably the most insidious legacy of apartheid. The restoration of a culture of teaching and learning within predominantly African schools is a matter that the Government must tackle with haste. Schools that work, which appear to be the majority of former ‘Model C’ schools, need to be encouraged and their success replicated elsewhere.

Obviously these schools benefit from superior facilities, but the teaching ethos that is so strong in many of these schools needs to be copied. Poorly-performing schools must be strengthened, but not by weakening the schools that perform well.

Excellence in the public schooling system is not confined to former ‘Model C’ schools. In the 2009 matric exams there were 1 576 schools that achieved pass rates of between 80 and 100%. Nearly one-third of these were former ‘Model C’ schools. Some 509 of such schools achieved pass rates of between 80 and 100%. This equates to 82% of all former ‘Model C’ schools. Conversely only 1 067 of former non ‘Model C’ schools achieved pass rates of between 80 and 100%. This was equal to 22% of such schools. Although the proportion of such schools getting pass rates above 80% was much lower than that in former ‘Model C’ schools, there were nevertheless two excellent such schools for every excellent former ‘Model C’ school.

The South African education system is in crisis, but it is clear that centres of excellence still exist. Many schools which achieve good results did not fall under the jurisdiction of the House of Assembly. The factors that make these schools and many of the country’s former ‘Model C’ schools excellent need to be identified and replicated in the rest of the country’s schools. These good schools are the foundation on which the future success of South Africa will be built, and this must be strengthened and encouraged. At the same time poorly-performing schools must not be abandoned. The success of the more than 1 500 schools which achieved pass rates of above 80% must spread to the rest of the South African education system.

- Marius Roodt